Promoting from Within: 5 Tips from a Panel of Experts—Session Recap from CHART Austin

September 01, 2022 | 1166 Views

Promoting from Within: 5 Tips from a Panel of Experts—Session Recap from CHART Austin

Patrick Yearout, FMP, CHT

Director of Innovation, Recruiting, and Training | Ivar's & Kidd Valley Restaurants

The panel discussion, Train the Future: Attracting and Upskilling Your Top Talent, was presented at CHART Austin Hospitality Training Conference, and moderated by Yvonne Lloyd and Danielle McLimore of the National Restaurant Association.


One of the most powerful benefits of working in the hospitality industry, and certainly one of the main sources of our management candidates, is our ability to promote hourly team members up through the ranks. Many of you have probably heard the saying that folks don’t start as a receptionist in a doctor’s office and work their way up to doctor, but they can start as a dishwasher or housekeeper and work their way up to General Manager. Or Chef. Or Sales Director. Or VP of Operations. Or wherever else they would like to go with the many skills they’ve acquired working in a restaurant or hotel.

This talent pipeline will not create or sustain itself, however, so we need to put the structure in place to ensure our team members are aware of the possibility of future growth and are given the opportunity to take the necessary steps. At the recent CHART Hospitality Training Conference in Austin, TX, a panel session entitled “Train the Future: Attracting and Upskilling Your Top Talent” was convened to share best practices that employers could implement so this upward mobility can be achieved.

Panel of Experts Train the Future

Panelists: Christopher Shand, VP of Human Resources, Silver Diner; Kate Stiteler, Senior Training Manager, Sonesta Hotels; Jason M. Lyon, President & COO, Flatbread Company; Monique Donahue, Director of Professional Development & Academic Markets, RMA

Here are the 5 most helpful suggestions that I took away from the session:

1.    Discuss the future: Right from the very first points of contact – which is often the interview or first day of work – supervisors should be talking to employees about their long-term prospects and future growth with the company. We should mention that unlike the gig economy, where we often lose staff members seeking a more flexible role such as a DoorDash driver or Instacart shopper, a person’s level of income and knowledge doesn’t have to plateau in the hospitality industry with their very first position. For our people, the sky’s the limit! So whenever trainers or managers (including district managers and directors visiting the operation) have time for a conversation with an applicant or new hire, they should be asking about their workplace/career goals and what they would like to accomplish or contribute during their time at the company.

2.    Show the future: Because career advancement is one of the most desirable factors that jobseekers want from an employer, you should work with your operations team (for the information) and marketing department (to create the visuals) to assemble a career ladder showing new hires the different rungs they can move up to in your organization. This growth roadmap should not only include possible positions and pathways, but also current pay rates for the jobs listed and the skills needed to move up to those higher levels. You can insert this ladder into your recruiting ads, bring it up during an interview, post it in a place where employees will see it regularly, and of course definitely include it as a part of any employee evaluation where it’s just as critical to plot where they’re going as it is to review where they’ve been.

Yvonne Lloyd Moderating Panel Discussion at CHART Austin

Session Moderator: Yvonne Lloyd, Product Manager, Career Development, National Restaurant Association (Not pictured, co-moderator Danielle McLimore, Product Manager, Hospitality Careers, National Restaurant Association)

3.    Invest in training: It’s not enough for restaurants and hotels to just lay out the path to promotions for employees; we also need to provide them with proper training programs (as well as the time to use these programs) so they can develop their abilities and be ready to successfully execute their new roles. If you don’t have a training department at your company to create these programs and materials, don’t worry – there are many external options available! First, start by checking out the member-recommended vendors with which CHART partners – you can read about their training offerings online or see them in person at one of our conferences. You can also check with nearby colleges, which are often very interested in working with local businesses to collaborate on hospitality training, or you can reach out to your local or state hospitality association to see what programs might be offered (sometimes even at a discount if you are an association member).

4.    Celebrate promotions: Imagine if you worked hard to achieve a goal – something you wanted for a long time and really strove to accomplish – but nobody noticed. Not one person said anything, or congratulated you, or patted you on the back. How would that make you feel? Unfortunately, in the very busy and very decentralized world of hospitality, that’s what happens all too often when an employee gets promoted; their GM hands them a new set of keys and the only communication they receive is “Don’t screw this up.” But it shouldn’t be that way – these victories need to be celebrated! The word should go out to everyone in the restaurant/district/division – not just in an email to unit managers, but via whatever communication tool you use to stay in touch with all your team members. If you have a company newsletter or social media accounts, there should be a story and a photo about the employee (the bonus for including it in a social media account is that that success story might motivate some candidates to apply). For group or multiple promotions, consider a team party or a graduation ceremony. And the person or people who did all the work should get be rewarded with whatever swag, certificates, or pins they have earned. These are big moments and need to be treated as such.

5.    Track your promotions: Many hospitality professionals generally believe they are doing a great job with internal promotions because they can quickly list at least several prominent managers who rose through the ranks, but it’s critical that these anecdotes are backed up with actual data. If you don’t have those numbers available already, partner with your Human Resources Department to develop a monthly or quarterly report that shows how many (either an overall total or a percentage) current employees were promoted into their positions versus external hires, and then track those numbers over several periods. If the trend shows a decrease, then it’s time to revisit steps #1-#4 above and rework the structure that you have set up.


Retaining the best and brightest team members in our workplaces is not something that is going to happen by luck or accident; restaurants and hotels are still severely understaffed when compared to pre-pandemic peak levels, and employees are jumping from job to job and in and out of the industry. The businesses that keep, and eventually promote, their staff are going to be the ones who earn loyalty by providing compelling cultural reasons for their team members to return day after day and shift after shift.

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